From Misery to Mercy to Ministry
by Sharon Betters
Therefore, encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Remember the last time everything seemed to fall apart around you, and none of the chaos was your fault? Pick one that fits you – maybe all of them:
Office tension because of downsizing and too much work for the smaller team
Home tension because of the added responsibilities of caring for aging parents
Extended family tension because of old wounds
Parenting challenges because children are born with a sin nature
Marriage problems because your spouse struggles with depression
Big life crises require big fixes, right? Remember, the goal of biblical encouragement is to help turn hearts toward Jesus. Often, we’re in a marathon, not a sprint and God delights in planting little seeds that have the potential for bearing big fruit further down the pathway of life.
Many of my friends are struggling with prodigal children. Their instincts are to confront their adult children and speak their minds. But every one of them is learning that fear-filled or angry confrontation does not work. Instead, their child’s choices are sending them to the Word for instruction. Listen as one mother describes how God’s Word transformed a destructive conversation into a life-giving opportunity for her entire family:
“Our family sat at the kitchen table enjoying a game of cards, but in my heart, I knew that there was so much more going on. Earlier that week, in my Bible study, the verse in 1 Peter 3 hit me right between the eyes.
‘The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.’
1 Peter 3:9 ESV
I was tired of waiting for our prodigal daughter to come back to Jesus. She is a covenant child. Didn’t God love her enough to turn her heart back toward Him? This Scripture forced me to question that maybe I thought I loved her more than He did. My answer to this question stunned and embarrassed me. Yes, if I was honest, I did feel that somehow He had deserted her, and maybe I was a bit resentful because I wished I could desert her too. I was so tired of years of always being the one to humble myself after difficult conversations where she seemed to deliberately agitate me. Instead of responding to her as I would have to a young child needing instruction, I had to practice ‘duct tape’ living, i.e. keeping my mouth shut and refusing to take her bait. But I resented every minute and felt she was winning.
Now God faced me with a well known truth in this passage. I had interpreted God’s patience with her as being slow on His part. Yet perhaps His patience was actually demonstrating to her a side of His love that she desperately needed to experience. If part of His salvation journey for my daughter was for her to experience His patience, then I needed to reflect that same patience to her, just as He is patient with me. Instead of happily leaving her out of family gatherings so that I didn’t have to face her anger or the change in the family dynamic, I recognized that I needed to patiently continue to build a bridge that would keep welcoming her back to our family table. Perhaps my patience was a reflection of God’s patience with her.
Our last connection had been unpleasant, but I made the call to invite her to join the family for dinner and games, expecting she would decline the invitation. She came, gave me tight hugs and thanked me for the invitation. We laughed and enjoyed easy conversation with the rest of the family. What had changed? The Word had set the table in my heart. His Word transformed my resentment, anger and even impatience to reflect the Lord. He gave me grace and the power to choose to rest in His promise rather than my own worn out, self-centered strategies. An unexpected bonus was that my family followed my lead so that she felt welcomed by them as well. The pathway back to the Lord for my daughter seems long, but because of her reluctance to place her trust in Him, my need for Jesus is magnified. I would not have this intimacy with Him without this challenging child’s choices leading me to the Cross.”
This mother is learning that dying to self is not one and done, but often requires many little “deaths” along the way of waiting for new life to appear. In this week’s devotional, we see God’s long suffering love extended to the Israelites and then BOOM! New life rises from the almost dead community. This week the prophetess Deborah gives us a glimpse into what it means to be a life-giver when village life ceases.
Let’s see how God moves His children from misery to mercy and how we can be a life-giving fragrance that offers His salvation to others in our village. When the light of Jesus shines in us, He moves us from misery to mercy to ministry.
Treasured by Him,
Read Deborah’s Story in Judges 4-5
Read Treasures of Encouragement, Chapter 3
Revel in this truth:
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?
2 Corinthians 2:14-16